One year ago today, Matthew McCain died in his cell at the Durham County Detention Facility at the age of 29. Just over a month before his death, Matthew’s daughter, Kinslee, was born while he was in jail. He never met her.
Matthew suffered from diabetes and epilepsy, two serious long-term conditions but certainly ones that can be managed with proper medical care and adequate resources. But competent medical care was never to be found at the Durham jail for Matthew, as is the case for many other people unfortunate enough to be caged there.
In the one year since Matthew’s death, there have been marches, speak-outs, and vigils; there have been balloons and candles, tears and rage. But one thing there has never been is an apology or a public acknowledgment of responsibility for Matthew McCain’s death by anyone connected to the jail, or Correct Care Solutions, the company that profits from providing detainees as little care as possible.
Sheriff Mike Andrews, whose office is responsible for jail operations, never apologized or acknowledged Matthew’s death, either, even as he glad-handed at events attended by Matthew’s girlfriend, Ashley, with Kinslee in tow.
Matthew’s death dramatically affected the lives of many people, including Ashley’s children; his mother; aunts; cousins; and friends, some of whom he got to know inside the jail. Besides the initial report of Matthew’s death that was shared with outside members of Inside-Outside Alliance by a comrade inside, many people on Matthew’s pod shared recollections of him and their own accounts of his death.
See the following: We still place his chair at the table; They do not listen; I feel they may have lied; Officials acted with neglect; There is a rumor going around; Something gotta give; Everything is a mind battle; They try to punish you for little things; Fight til you can’t fight no more
As we joined Matthew’s loved ones to press the sheriff’s office for answers about his death, we were contacted by the daughter of a man, Dennis McMurray, who had died at the jail a year before, and whose death was never made public. This fact made the brave truth-telling of detainees on Matthew’s pod all the more important and integral to the struggle.
The tragedy of Matthew’s death has helped to gain the attention of many who otherwise had not been paying much attention to conditions and treatment in the jail. Recently, the Human Relations Commission of the city of Durham published recommendations about the jail that they will share with the county commissioners and the sheriff’s office.
In the aftermath of Matthew’s death, in the struggle to obtain answers and demand accountability, we published a pamphlet, No More Jail Deaths, No More Jail. As then, we still know the only way to ensure there will be no more horrible, undignified deaths in jail is to get rid of these cages as we transform the world which produces them.
November 25, 2016 marked the day Matthew would have been 30 years old. A week later, his daughter Kinslee, full of life and spark, turned a year old. These birthdays and anniversaries hurt those who loved Matthew and they will continue to be painful. But we take today to say that we have not forgotten Matthew, and we will not forget that the jail killed him. For those who are able to, join us at the jail this evening, January 19, 2017, at 7 pm for a vigil to remember Matthew McCain.
Facebook Event: Candlelight Vigil in Memory of Matthew McCain